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Composing the WorldHarmony in the Medieval Platonic Cosmos$
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Andrew Hicks

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190658205

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190658205.001.0001

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Hearing the World

Hearing the World

Sonic Materialisms

Chapter:
(p.151) 4 Hearing the World
Source:
Composing the World
Author(s):

Andrew Hicks

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190658205.003.0005

This chapter examines the idea of “instrumental music” via medieval ontologies of sound. It follows William of Conches’s imagined life of the vox (the human voice) in its emergence from human physiology (sound production), its transmission through the medium of physics (sound propagation), and effects upon the physiology and, ultimately, psychology of its hearers (sound perception, meaning, and affect). Contemporary scholarship has often promulgated a binary opposition between music as immaterial, intelligible number and as material, sensible sound, with Boethius understood as the loudest proponent of the former. Careful analysis, however, reveals Boethius’s keen interest in the materiality of sound and its perception. This interest was renewed in twelfth-century grammatical theory, in which the ontology of the vox was of central importance.

Keywords:   voice, sound studies, materialism, ontology, Boethius, Abelard, universals

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